Going into the press night performance of the Tony-winning musical “The Band’s Visit” at the Fox Theatre Tuesday night, I didn’t really know what to expect. I went on a friend’s recommendation but knew very little about it. After watching it, I have to say, I don’t know if I trust that friend so much anymore.
Don’t get me wrong, “The Band’s Visit” isn’t a terrible musical. The set was gorgeous, the blocking was intricate, and the actors did a great job. However, the play drags in some spots.
The play focuses on a group of Egyptian musicians who accidentally end up in the wrong town in Israel in advance of a concert they’re supposed to give. Intrigued by the arrival of the strangers, the bored townspeople immediately take them in.
The dry humor while entertaining in the beginning, just seems to sully the pacing of the play. The characters, although extremely fleshed out by the actors, seem to lack some nuance in the script.
Janet Dacal, the actress who plays the main character, the cafe owner Dina, turned in a brilliant performance. However, I sensed that her abilities were a bit suffocated by such a simplistic character. Overall, I feel as though the character did not give me any reason to care about the plot. So, in turn, I found myself being bored throughout most of the play. I found it hard to find any character I could connect with. Being a teenager, I just can’t relate to the sadness of divorce or the frustration of a marital dispute.
However, this play has one dazzling highlight: the music. Composed by David Yazbek, the music gives listeners a far more relatable experience. The themes of loneliness and desperation are clear from the second song, “Waiting.” Although the lyrics are simple, (the casts sing “Sometimes it feels like we’re moving in a circle,” while literally moving in a circular motion on a circular plate on stage) the song oozes with lines listeners can hold on to.
Later in the show, one of my favorite moments is with Papi, a minor character who is trying to talk to a girl as he springs into a song called “Papi Hears the Ocean.” He belts, “If they have breasts and they’re not my mother then all I hear is… [insert ocean noise].” It’s definitely the most comical number in the show, and Papi’s portrayer, actor Adam Gabay, is phenomenal.
Lastly, Janet Dacal as Dina, gives a beautifully honest performance in a song about her love interest, “Something Different” singing the line, “Is he thinking of two hearts searching in darkness… or is he thinking about fishing?”
All in all, the music in this play does a great job at keeping you captivated, no matter how hard the plot tries to put you to sleep.
“The Band’s Visit,” part of the Fifth Third Bank Broadway in Atlanta 2019-20 season at the Fox Theatre is in town through Sunday. For tickets, go to foxtheatre.org.
VOX teens had the opportunity to attend press night of “The Band’s Visit,” thanks to Broadway in Atlanta and Most Valuable Kids of Greater Atlanta.